How the COVID -19 Pandemic May Affect Your Home Remodel

COVID-19 brings opportunities if you want to remodel your home, but you’ll need to know how to navigate

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When the global pandemic of 2020 hit, few homeowners were thinking about home remodeling. Yet as the pandemic wore on, life returned to (some) idea of normal and home remodeling once again became a topic. It was top of mind for homeowners who had already started a remodel before COVID-19 spread. Homeowners who had only considered remodeling also started to plan their projects in earnest.

However, when it comes to remodeling, COVID-19 has impacted material costs and changed the supply chain. Sweeten outlines what a homeowner might expect to encounter while taking on a remodel during COVID-19, and how to navigate those obstacles to get your renovation plans back on track.

Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and up to $50,000 in renovation financial protection—for free.

We’re noticing our homes in new ways, every day

Homeowners now spend more time than ever at home. Flaws that were merely annoying with that bathroom or kitchen are now magnified. Homeowners who only wondered if their home was ready for a remodel now know.

This need isn’t just imaginary, either. More people at home means that renovation is a necessity. Even if only a couple of people live there, everything in the house is being used more often.

Savings from 2020 allow for renovations in 2021

The pandemic has hit many people hard—the job market, businesses, people’s health. Some homeowners have been lucky, and employers have found ways to keep workers employed from home.

However, there is a rare upside to the COVID-19 pandemic for some Americans. Many homeowners’ expenses have shrunk dramatically. What has contributed to this? With less driving, gas and vehicle expenses drop. Less dining out and entertaining means lighter credit card bills. Vacation plans have been canceled.

This has caught many experts by surprise, too. The Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies had previously predicted a slowdown in home remodeling in 2021. But as 2020 wore on, the group revised its prediction. They now indicate that home remodeling is going stronger than ever, with a projected uptick in home renovation and repair spending from 2020 to 2021.

Indeed, at Sweeten, we saw an increase in home renovation projects. Our fourth quarter saw 110% growth year-over-year from 2019 to 2020. The trend is continuing into 2021 as well, with 99% growth for January 2021 vs. 2020. We attribute this growth to homeowners realizing their homes need to be so much more than a place to just sleep. More than ever, we’ve needed our homes to provide us space for work, play, self-care, and recovery.

Act fast, or prepare to wait for building materials

Homeowners intent on remodeling may find themselves blocked due to a severe slowdown in the supply of materials. In many sectors, the manufacturing of building materials drastically slowed or came to a complete stop. Even if manufacturers are functioning again, they are doing so at a reduced capacity due to social distancing.

The pandemic shows how much the U.S. depends on overseas building products like lumber, roofing, and windows. For one, many homes’ kitchen and bathroom remodels use ceramic and porcelain tile. However, over 81% of U.S. tile comes from China, Mexico, Spain, Italy, and Brazil. Both Spain and Italy were hard hit particularly by COVID-19.

Home centers are ordering up to 300% more product due to the high level of DIY home repairs and remodels. This has a significant impact on the supply chain for builders.

Pro tip: Don’t wait! For homeowners interested in renovating, it’s smart to schedule and sign with a contractor to lock in your material prices. If you do wait, prices will only continue to go up.

Labor lag-time is a reality

Soon after the pandemic hit, over 25% of building projects came to an immediate halt or were delayed, according to an industry group. For any homeowner thinking of a remodel, this means that all other projects in the queue must come first.

Even materials that are acquired and on-site do no good unless there are workers to install them. Workers who have had to tend to family members affected by COVID-19 have left the workforce or even the U.S. At the same time, other workers who are eager to work have filled in the vacuum.

Tips on handling your COVID-19 remodel project

The future is unclear, but one thing is certain: COVID-19’s effects are long-lasting. Even after vaccines are widely dispensed, there will be an effect in building and remodeling. Here’s what proactive homeowners can do to position themselves well for a remodel during COVID-19 recovery.

Book a contactor now

The desire to remodel has increased, and in many markets, demand outstrips supply. If you delay speaking to a contractor, you’ll have even more orders jump into the line ahead of you. With vaccines being widely distributed, there will only be more people booking a contractor. Begin setting up appointments to meet general contractors for site visits.

Conduct virtual site-visits

Sweeten offers a streaming video conference on the platform. The virtual site visit replaces both the general contractor’s walk-through of the property and the face-to-face conference between contractor and homeowner.

If done effectively, it can give the contractor enough information to begin drawing up an estimate. This allows for both parties to safely review the renovation project virtually, without meeting in person.

Take note: a physical site visit will need to be done at some point for the contractor to take their own measurements and account for every detail. Virtual site visits are a good option, however, if an initial in-person site visit isn’t possible or safe.

Expect higher costs, but shop smartly for savings

Some experts predict that home remodeling not only will take longer but will cost up to 50% more than in pre-pandemic times. Don’t worry: this gives motivated homeowners the chance to shop for items on their own. Make sure to seek the best possible prices out there, and select your contractor carefully.

Make the most of your space with clever design

Speaking early on to a general contractor or designer will help you solidify your ideas. Hone your design with care and avoid waste.

The transformation of under-utilized spaces is a trend here to stay. Basements, attics, or garages are performing in new ways. At Sweeten, we’re seeing attics turn into places for children to learn and play. Basements are mostly getting turned into gyms. Garages are becoming studios or offices that could be rented out in the future.

With multiple family members at home during the day, the installation of glass panels has gained traction. People aren’t looking for visual separation—they need acoustic separation when working from home.

Outdoor spaces and outdoor kitchens will be popular. It’s unknown if we’ll still be social distancing through the summer. Being able to host the whole event outside, not having to run back and forth inside, makes the event a better experience.

Ready to find licensed, vetted general contractors for help with a remodeling project?

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ADUs or accessory dwelling units can transform into home offices, living space for family or as a rental, or a retreat.

Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, scope, and style. Follow the blog, Sweeten Stories, for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation with Sweeten.

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